Fiat Abarth 131 Rally
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
In creating competition cars from production models, manufacturers tended to concentrate on their most popular type, redesigning it completely, but at the same time maintaining some similarity in appearance.
In the mid 1970's Fiat applied that treatment to their
131, which at the time accounted for 50% of the company's European sales, thus creating the Abarth Rally.
The Abarth acted as a replacement for the valiant 123 Spider as Fiat's warhorse for road events. The main modifications included: two-litre engine with twin overhead camshafts, four valves
per cylinder, 140-147 bhp DIN (104 - 110 kW), five speed gearbox, independent rear suspension
, four wheel disc brakes, extra wide wheelrims and aerodynamic
stabilisers on the chunky bodywork.
The Abarth Rally, of which only 400 were made in 1977, sold out in Italy in only three days. These cars provided the basis for homologation in Group 4. The competition version was even more powerful with a 215 bhp (160 kW) injection motor.
Abarth Rally Homologation
The entire Abarth Rally seemed to be specially-built, using an interesting independent rear suspension
of coil spring struts, and massive wishbones with links which were adjustable for toe-in or toe-out, as well as an adjustable anti-roll bar
With supplementary front suspension
torque links, exceptional road-holding was achieved, and understeer/oversteer characteristics could be varied as required. Equipped with Pirelli's then very impressive P7 tyres
(P7's were 195/50 VR 15 on 17 x 15 light-alloy rims), and durable brakes, the basic Abarth Rally was nevertheless handicapped by heavy though low-geared steering
from the production 131, and still too-heavy bodywork
(the kerb weight was 2156 lb. / 978 kg).
In spite of the drawbacks the car left a favourable impression on those lucky enough to take a test drive, not only because of its performance, but for its real comfort, great flexibility and low noise levels. The standard version of the engine was powerful but also suprisingly flexible (it would pull strongly from less than 2000 rpm), and was in unit with a five-speed synchromesh
gearbox (of the 'crash' type for rallies).
With the standard final drive ratio (there were five alternatives), it was possible to obtain a standing quarter mile (400 metres) in 15.8 seconds, and a standing kilometre in 28.9 seconds. The maximum speed was a remarkable 117.4 mph (188.89 km/h), helping it winn the World Rally Championship three times: in 1977, 1978, and in 1980 with Markku Alen, Timo Salonen and Walter Röhrl at the wheel. The official "works" cars were sponsored by Italian airline Alitalia and bore their distinctive red, white and green livery.